Posts Tagged ‘Armed Forces’

Max Blumenthal on How Israel Destroys the Careers of Its Critics

September 24, 2018

In this video from RT America of just over eight minutes in length, posted in 2015, Priya Reddy, one of the broadcaster’s own producers, talks to the news anchor about Max Blumenthal and his book, Ruin and Resistance in Gaza: The 21 Day War. Blumenthal had been speaking about the book at an event the previous evening, which Reddy had attended and interviewed him.

Reddy begins by describing how well attended the event was, and how many Jewish people were there, talking and being very critical of Israel. Blumenthal made it very clear that Judaism and Zionism are not the same thing, not every Jew identifies as a Zionist, and that there’s a whole new generation of young Jewish people, who are very critical of Israel.

The news anchor asks her how she would compare Blumenthal’s approach to that of the general US media. Reddy states that what she respects about Blumenthal’s work is that, rather than doing Israel’s PR, he went to Gaza, interviewed the victims and extensively documented some of the most horrific war crimes in modern history. Which is what a real journalist does. Blumenthal stated that the standard US media coverage of Gaza was simply to take talking points from Netanyahu’s right-wing government and repeating them.

This is followed by a clip of Blumenthal saying that he wanted to honour the resistance of the Gaza strip by telling their own stories and presenting their testimonies in their own words. And most importantly he wanted to identify and expose the criminals, who devastated Gaza, who killed over 2,200 people, including 550 children.

Blumenthal described the incident when the Israeli navy fired on small Palestinian boys playing soccer, the kids were aged 9 to 11 years old. Israel routinely targets children, but what was different this time is that it occurred right in front of an hotel where foreign journalists were staying, and so they couldn’t ignore it, and it was reported with more accuracy than the rest of the war.

There’s then another clip of Blumenthal, in which he says that there’s still a fear here in DC among the media and political elites, among the influential people in Washington of taking on Israel as it is, as an apartheid state that doesn’t want peace, which intends to occupy permanently Palestinian land and hold Gaza under siege. To do that is just a bridge to far, not because people don’t realise that here. They realise it. You could see at his talk people knew something was wrong and it was resonating. But there is a pressure machine, there is a lobby that can still destroy your political career. For Blumenthal personally, he was able to do it because he’s an independent journalist, and he really has nothing to lose by telling the truth.

Reddy goes on to state that Blumenthal’s book exposes some of these extremely horrific war crimes. There’s a long-standing pattern in the US media of downplaying these crimes, which has been extensively documented by groups like Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting and many others. She also states that it was interesting to learn from Blumenthal that Sheldon Adelson and Haim Habad – who supports Hillary Clinton – actually discussed buying the New York Times and LA Times outright. Controlling the narrative is a top priority for the Israel lobby. Israel has not only banned journalists from covering Gaza, but has actually bombed media buildings and shot and fatally killed a number of journalists.

The news anchor continues, saying that Sheldon Adelson is a big heavyweight when it comes to buying, or as they would put it, contributing or donating to campaigns, typically to the Republicans. Reddy then interrupts, saying the buy both Republicans and Democrats.

The news anchor then goes on to describe a recent incident where Israeli settlers set fire to a Palestinian home, burning the family alive, killing an 18-month old baby. Reddy had asked Blumenthal, who he thought was responsible for inciting that kind of violence. Reddy replies that it is not unusual for settlers to target Palestinians, and there is almost never any legal penalties, which sends the message that it’s no big deal if you murder a Palestinian. Reddy says she asked Blumenthal specifically about inflammatory statements made by top level officials, like Netanyahu, Eilet Shaked that not only sanction but encourage this type of barbaric behaviour.

This is followed by a clip of Blumenthal stating that incitement to genocide and incitement to killing children is legitimate when it’s inciting the citizens of Israel to do it in army uniform, and that’s what Eilet Shaked did when she called for the killing of mothers in the Gaza strip, their extermination in order to prevent them giving birth, in her words, to ‘little snakes’. This was the Justice Minister, the person in charge of the court system. Moshe Alon, the Defence Minister, recently pledged to hurt children in airstrikes in Lebanon, in April 2015. That was considered legitimate. What is not considered legitimate is a fanatical settler like Moshe Orbach, who wrote a manual, which isn’t even in wide-publication, for burning Palestinians alive in their homes. He wasn’t calling for that in army uniform, he called for it in vigilante fashion and so was pulled in for interrogation. So the state, which has killed 550 children, many of whom were burned alive, uses the settlers as moral cover for its own crimes.

The news anchor says that this is a difficult situation, and many people will be asking what they can do to change it. Reddy says that there is international law, but there is a massive failure of international institutions to hold Israel accountable, such as the UN or the ICC, that’s why grassroots movements are so important and individual actions are so important. Blumenthal talked about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Reddy therefore asked him why the BDS movement, which is explicitly anti-racist and pro-human rights, is so aggressively attacked by well-funded Israel lobbyists as anti-Semitic.

There’s then a clip of Blumenthal saying that it’s the same thing people hear from White supremacists here in the US: that when African-Americans talk about racism, they’re being racist, or when they talk about White violence against African-Americans, racially inspired violence, they’re being racist. It’s the language we hear from Zionists when they complain that the BDS movement is a movement of hatred, when all they’re doing is supporting international law.

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Eisenhower’s Speech Warning about the Military Industry Complex

September 20, 2018

This short video from RT, posted on YouTube, was under the title ‘Speeches that Still Matter’. It’s American president Dwight D. Eisenhower’s speech of January 17th, 1961, warning America about the threat posed by an unrestrained military-industrial complex.

After a few words about the structure of society at the beginning of the snippet, Eisenhower declares

We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defence with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.

It has become one of the classic speeches in modern American history, and is referred to whenever activists and politicians criticize the military-industrial complex. Because since Eisenhower’s time, it has grown and seized power. The American military machine and armaments industry sponsors American politicians, and generals, senior civil servants and politicians frequently take up positions on the boards of armaments firms after their military or political career has ended. And the American government gives billions, if not trillions to its weapons manufacturers and armed forces.

I’ve read left-wing analyses of this situation which suggest that this is a deliberate policy of the American government to stimulate the economy. It’s a form of Keynsianism, but as the right-wing ideology of free trade and laissez-faire prevents the government from openly stimulating the economy through public works projects and a proper welfare support network that allows the poor enough to purchase the goods and services they need, which will also stimulate production and industrial growth, the only way the government can actually do so is by giving more and more money to the arms industry.

And all those planes, tanks, ships, missiles, guns and bombs have to be used.

The result is endless war in which small countries in the Developing World are invaded and their leaders toppled, their industries and economies plundered and seized by American multinationals, and Fascist dictators or sham democracies are installed instead. All in the name of giving more profits to the military machine. If you want an example, think of the close connections between the Bush family and the massive industrial conglomerate Haliburton.

When Martin Luther King said in one of his speeches that America was the chief exporter of violence in the world today, he had a point. And our government under the Tories and Blair has been no better. Blair lied to us to get the support of the British public for the Iraq invasion. Maggie Thatcher promoted British arms exports, as did Blair, as did Cameron, drooling all over the ‘wonderful kit’ produced in that BAE factory in Lancashire.

And all the while ordinary people have seen services cut and the infrastructure of countries – roads, railways and so on – left to decay by the profiteering firms that should be maintaining and building them. There are cuts to public services and even more attacks on welfare payments, all in the name of ‘austerity’, ‘making work pay’ and the other lies and buzzwords used by the right to justify their impoverishment and victimization of the poor. And this is done to give massive tax cuts to the already bloated rich.

It’s high time this was stopped, the military-industrial complex reigned in, the wars for their profits ended, and the government invested instead in proper economic growth, domestic industries, infrastructure, public services, a proper welfare state and medical care, and giving working people a proper, living wage.

Al-Jazeera on the First Test Flight of India’s Space Shuttle

September 19, 2018

In this short clip, just over two minutes long, from Al-Jazeera, posted two years ago in 2016, Tariq Bezley reports on the first test flight by the Indian Space Agency of their space shuttle. The shuttle was launched into space on top of a rocket fired from India’s launch facility north of Chenai. The craft separated from the rocket at an altitude of 70 km and re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere, which heated it up to 2,000 degrees.

A female scientist speaking for the Observer Research Foundation, Rajeswari P Rajagopalan talks on the video about how it was necessary to test the shuttle’s heat shield.

Besley states that so far only the US, USSR, Japan and Europe have launched reusable shuttles. He states that NASA’s Space Shuttle flew 135 missions in 30 years before it was finally decommissioned. It has been replaced by the US air forces X-37B test vehicle. This unmanned vehicle was on its third mission, and had been up there for a year. However, the secrecy surrounding its missions have provoked speculation that it is a spy satellite, or is being tested to deliver weapons from space.

He then goes on to discuss the Dreamchaser, the spaceplane being developed by the private Sierra Nevada firm to service the International Space Station. Its first flight is planned for 2019. India’s space shuttle is in a much earlier stage of development, and it’s estimated that it’ll be 10 or 15 years before it is ready to fly.

Besley also discusses how India successfully put a spacecraft in orbit around Mars in 2014, becoming the first Asian nation to do so.

Rajagopan states that China has flourishing military space programme, which is a direct challenge to India, and India has to respond if it is not to be left lagging behind.

Further tests will be carried out on the Indian spacecraft, including on the supersonic scramjet engine which the Indians hope will one day power the spaceplane. The Indians say that their Mars mission cost a tenth of that of other missions to the Red Planet. Besley concludes that if their space shuttle can achieve the same savings, space travel will become much more affordable for all.

A number of countries have developed plans for different spaceplanes. The Russians had their own version of the Space Shuttle, Buran, which looked exactly like the American. It has been mothballed since the Fall of the USSR and has never flown. The French designed a small spaceplane, Hermes, which was to go on top of their Ariane rocket in the 1990s. This was very much like the American Dynosoar spaceplane proposed in the 1950s, but never actually built. The Germans also designed a spaceplane, Sanger, named after one of their leading rocket scientists. This would consist of two craft, a larger plane acting as a first stage, which would piggy-back a second plane into orbit.
And then there was the British HOTOL project of the 1980s which also used airbreathing ramjet engines to take the plane into space. This was never completed because of problems with those same engines. The technology has since been perfected, and a new British spaceplane, Skylon, has been developed. It has been forecast that it will come into service sometime in the next few years, possibly flying from spaceport launch sites in Cornwall or Scotland.

The video shows how sophisticated India’s space programme is, and I’ve no doubt that their entry into space will lower launch costs significantly. While the American shuttle was an amazing piece of engineering, it was massively expensive. It only became competitive as a launch vehicle against Ariane and the other rockets because it was heavily subsidized by the American government.

I look forward to the development of India’s spaceplane and that country joining the US and Russia in launching manned space missions. Perhaps if more countries develop reusable spacecraft, humanity will at last enter a real age of crewed space exploration and colonization.

Vox Political on the Tories’ Proposed Privatisation of the Fire Service

September 15, 2018

Yesterday Mike put up a piece showing precisely what the fire service would like if Brandon Lewis gets his way and privatizes it. His piece follows an article in Mirror Online. The Mirror obtained a letter in which Lewis calls for new laws, which would allow fire and rescue organisations in England to contract these services out to other providers. This could result in all 46 fire and ambulance services being sold to private industry. Lewis says in his letter that he realizes this would be controversial, but defends it as it would give the fire and rescue authorities more choice over whom to contract their services.

As Mike shows, it’s a rubbish idea, and one that will ultimately cost lives. He gives a very short scenario portraying how the privatized service would operate. A householder would phone up their local fire brigade to ask for help. They’d then get a reply telling them who the current provider is, which firm is currently sponsoring them, before finally asking them how they’re going to pay for it. By this time, the fire’s out of control and their house is burning down. The private fire service then informs the customer that they’ll bill their descendants.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/09/14/want-to-know-what-brandon-lewiss-privatised-fire-service-will-look-like-itll-look-like-this/

This plan is, of course, pure idiocy, and Mike’s absolutely right about how it would operate. This is another idea the Tories have stolen from Rothbard’s wretched Libertarians. Rothbard was an anarcho-capitalist, who believed that all state functions should be taken over by private industry, including the courts. They were solidly behind Ronald Reagan, and it was the Libertarians in the Conservative party who formed the party’s base for Thatcher.

Obviously, while Thatcher wanted to privatise everything that wasn’t nailed down, as a believer in a ‘strong state’ she definitely wouldn’t want to do anything so radical as sell off the courts or the armed forces, although the Tories had a pretty good go at selling off the forces’ support infrastructure, like various barracks, as revealed at the time by Private Eye. And way back c. 1991/1992 Virginia Bottomley wrote a glowing piece the Depress or Heil looking forward to the privatization of the police and their replacement with private security forces.

And the privatized future Mike portrays in his article is all too plausible. It’s what happened in the past. Viewers of the antique shows on the Beeb, like Bargain Hunt, will recall that every so often the presenters came across a house plaque dating from the 18th century. These plaques were to show that the householder was registered with an insurance company against fire. If fire broke out, the local fire brigade would come round to put the fire out. But they did this only for those, who were insured with them. If you weren’t insured, then they let your house burn down.

The Tories have been trying to cut down on the fire service for a very long time as part of their general campaign of cuts, including to the firemen and women’s pay, conditions and pensions. And the fire brigade union has fought against them. This looks like another attempt to break the brigade’s resistance by selling it off to a private contractor, just like the Tories have done to the personnel and their unions in other sectors of the state.

I don’t doubt that they’ll present this as a new way the brigade can raise necessary funds outside of taxpayer’s money, just like the part-privatization of the NHS was intended to allow GPs and other service providers to raise money from private industry. It’ll also be presented as still giving the people of a particular area uniform coverage while in fact removing the state’s obligation to do so, just as Andrew lansley’s vile Health and Social Care Law of 2012 removes the state’s obligation to provide health care. And just as the Tories want to introduce and increase charging within the NHS, so they’ll introduce charges into the fire and rescue services.

The result will be tax cuts for the very rich, as usual, while the people in the fire services will be placed on drastically reduced pay and conditions, and those unable to afford private fire protection will be left to fend for themselves. Just the Tories have done right across the entire economy.

Mail Spikes Story about German Anti-Nazi Tennis Champ to Save Embarrassing Its Chiefs’ Grandfathers

June 14, 2018

This is another piece from Private Eye, which shows you once again how grotty the Daily Mail and its sister paper, the Mail on Sunday are, and their historic links with Fascism and anti-Semitism.

Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Mail, resigned last week to start a new job elsewhere in the company. He was succeeded by Geordie Grieg, who was previously the editor of the Mail on Sunday. This fortnight’s Private Eye for 15th-28th June 2018 therefore carried a special, two-page article paying suitable tribute to him and his editorship of the rag, on pages 8 and 9. On page 9, in the section ‘Good Sports Finally Agree’, the Eye describes how both Dacre and Grieg spiked a story about a 1930s German tennis player, Baron Gottfried von Cramm. Von Cramm was an opponent of the Nazis, and was imprisoned by them for having a gay affair. The Mail was considering running a story about this courageous and principled man, up to the point when one of its staff noticed a few lines in the article describing how he had been banned from participating in the 1939 Wimbledon tournament by the All England Club. One of those pushing for the ban was Harold, the first Viscount Rothermere. And so to avoid embarrassing the current Viscount Rothermre, the piece was spiked.

The story was then picked up the Mail on Sunday, which was also considering publishing it, until a hack dug up another connection between events then and the MoS’ editor. It turns out that the president of the All-England Club at the time von Cramm was banned was one Louis Grieg, Geordie Grieg’s grandfather. Who was also a member of Oswald Mosley’s January Club. And so the story was spiked again. This sorry tale was revealed, according to the Eye, in the ‘Mandrake’ column of the New European.

The Mail is infamous for the backing it gave Oswald Mosley’s legions with the headline ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’. One of the great left-wing bloggers, I think it was Tom Pride at Pride’s Purge, a few years ago posted up the various headlines and articles the paper had run in the 1930s raving about Adolf Hitler, the Nazis, Mosley and fulminating against Jewish immigration. This was after the Mail did a hatchet piece on Ed Miliband, the then head of the Labour party, which attacked him through his father. The article was headlined ‘The Man Who Hated Britain’, and sought to portray Ralph Miliband, a Jewish Belgian immigrant and an important Marxist thinker, as someone who despised his adopted country. Well, he certainly despised its class institutions, like the public schools and monarchy, but as Tom Pride’s piece revealed, Miliband senior did his patriotic duty like millions of other people, and served in the army fighting the Nazis.

This was in sharp contrast to Dacre’s father or grandfather, I can’t remember which, who spent the war as a showbiz or society correspondent. So, more hypocrisy from the Mail. This won’t surprise anyone, as the Mail’s always been hypocritical in its nasty attitudes.

With all these murky little family secrets about their predecessors’ extreme right-wing views, the editors of the Mail and Mail on Sunday have got no business libelling anyone on the Left as anti-Semites or Holocaust Deniers.

Gerald Scarfe Caricature of Menachem Begin

June 11, 2018

I found this caricature of the former Israeli premier, Menachem Begin, as a desert tank, on page 71 of Scarfe’s book, Scarfeface (London: Sinclair-Stevenson 1993).

I’m posting it as a rebuttal of the latest attempts to silence criticism of Israel, and particularly the censorship of cartoons commenting on Israeli atrocities and human rights abuses. Like the Guardian’s spiking of Steve Bell’s cartoon of Netanyahu and Tweezer having a chin-wag, while the murdered Palestinian medic Razan al-Najjar burns in the fire. Or the German cartoon, which was censored for anti-Semitism, because its depiction of Netanyahu was held by the censor, Klein, to be like the Nazi caricatures of Jews. And then there was the case of Scarfe’s own cartoon of Netanyahu building his wretched wall to keep the Palestinians out a few years ago. Mark Regev, the odious Israeli ambassador, speciously claimed that because it showed Netanyahu building it using the blood and bodies of Palestinians, that it was somehow a reference to the infamous ‘Blood Libel’.

It’s all rubbish. None of these cartoons were anti-Semitic. And as Mike has pointed out, in these cases authorial intention have to be taken into account. Scarfe isn’t an anti-Semite, and neither is Bell, who has vigorously denied that there was any anti-Semitic intention in his cartoon. But the people making these accusations aren’t interested in whether they’re really anti-Semitic. They’re interested solely in using the issue of anti-Semitism as a convenient weapon for shutting down criticism of Israel.

I don’t know when Scarfe’s cartoon of Begin was published, but it was clearly a much freer time journalistically. It’s a comment on his militaristic character and period in office. And I’m very sure that there were no accusations of anti-Semitism, and it was accepted as ‘fair comment’. And looking at it, it is not very different in its intent and comment on Israeli politics as the others that have recently been censored.

How very different to today, where if you draw a cartoon that the Israelis and their supporters don’t like, you will be automatically libelled as an anti-Semites and your cartoon spiked.

It’s time this grotesque infringement of free speech and libelling of perfectly decent people stopped. Journalists should hold everyone to account, including Israel and its leaders, just like every other nation, without fear of defamation and censorship.

It’s

After the BDJ, It Should Be the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, Who Need to Be Criticised and Investigated

May 19, 2018

If not broken up altogether, as the malign, libellous and morally corrupt organisation it really is. I’ve commented already on a post Mike put up on Thursday, reporting the barrage of criticism the Board of Deputies had called upon itself from outraged citizens up and down this country. They were enraged at the Board’s comments on the Gaza massacre, and the way they placed the blame, not on the Israeli squaddies, who murdered 60 people and wounded 200 more, but on the victims. Ah, it was all the fault of Hamas, who put all the 40,000 or so Palestinians massing at the fence, up to it. After all, 50 of those killed were members of Hamas.

It doesn’t matter if they were members of Hamas or not. They were unarmed. This makes their killings assassinations, which is the mark of a death squad. Which is Fascism.

Also, what about the 10 that weren’t members of Hamas? They didn’t deserve to die. Not least the baby that was killed when Israeli squaddies threw a tear gas grenade into a tent.

Liberal Judaism and Yachad wrote letters to the Board stating that the Board had grotesquely misrepresented their views. And ordinary, individual Jews were also incensed. One of them was the comic actor David Schneider, who said very plainly that the Board didn’t represent Jews like him.

Mike opened his article with the smug face of the Board’s president, Jonathan Arkush, who he said was soon to be ex-president of the Board.

Well, we live in hope.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/05/17/huge-backlash-against-supporters-of-israeli-government-over-gaza-massacre/

Arkush is a nasty piece of work, not least for the way he’s weaponised the anti-Semitism smears against the Labour party, and tried to make Corbyn the sole person responsible for it. It’s a lie, as he must surely know, as anti-Semitism has gone down in the Labour party under Corbyn. It’s now lower than in ordinary British society. And as Mike’s repeatedly pointed out, if you want to see real, baying racists and anti-Semites, with the vilest of views, you have to look at the Tory and Tory affiliated web-pages.

But when Arkush and the Board attack the Labour party for being anti-Semitic, this is only a cover for their real concern: to stifle criticism of Israel. And the Israel lobby has been using that smear since the 1980s. So much so that the American Jewish critic of Israel, Dr. Norman Finkelstein, has described it as a machine for manufacturing anti-Semites.

It’s a tactic shared and employed wholesale by the odious Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. And it was explicitly set up to stifle criticism of Israel caused by their treatment of Gaza. It’s founder, Gideon Falter, was left unnerved by the popular opposition to Israel aroused by the bombardment of Gaza in 2007 or so. He did what the Israel lobby always do in such circumstances, and defined criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic. Oh yes, in debates the pro-Israel pundits and speakers will allow that Israel should rightly be the subject of criticism where it’s justified. But in practice, any support for the Palestinians is met with outrage, and claims of anti-Semitism. Especially if you call it an apartheid state, or point out just how similar it is to Fascism or the Nazi policies towards the Jews before they embarked on the horrors of the ‘Final Solution’ in 1942.

The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism hasn’t said a peep about the Gaza massacre. They don’t represent British Jewry in the same way as the Board, and so there’s no call for them to. But you can bet they’ve been watching the wave of outrage against the Board for its vile comments, and been taking notes, if not names. The Israel lobby hates even the reporting of atrocities committed by Israel or its allies. They alleged that respected BBC foreign correspondents Jeremy Bowen and Orla Guerin were anti-Semites for their reports on the conflicts between Israel and its neighbours. They were particularly upset by Bowen’s report that the massacres of Muslim Palestinians by the Christian phalange in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon were committed by Israel’s allies. Alan Rusbridger, the editor of the Guardian, described in an interview with Peter Oborne in his Despatches programme on the Israel lobby how he was regularly placed under pressure by the Board demanding that he retract articles on Israeli crimes and human rights violations because they are anti-Semitic.

It isn’t just the Board that needs to be investigated and reformed because of their support for the shooting of unarmed civilians. It’s the entire Israel lobby, including the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. Their patrons, as Mike and Tony Greenstein has pointed out, are largely Tories with a history of racism and Islamophobia. And they have been principally involved with the anti-Semitism smears against members of the Labour party, in conjunction with pro-Israel organs like the Labour Friends of Israel. There have been calls for the latter group to be expelled from the party, just as there has been an internet petition on Change.org to have the CAA deregistered with the Charity Commission for being a political organisation, not a charity.

It has been the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism that libelled Mike as an anti-Semite and holocaust denier just because he had the temerity to defend Ken Livingstone. Just like they’ve libelled and smeared so many other decent people, Jew and gentile, even those, who have spent their lives combating racism and anti-Semitism. Even those, who have suffered genuine anti-Semitic abuse and assault themselves.

And just as many British Jews were rightly angered by the Board’s comments about Gaza, so Jewish Brits have also been annoyed by the way the Campaign presumes to speak for them. Especially when its pronouncements are made by gentiles like Luke Akehurst or Stephen Pollard, who then go on to declare that all British Jews, as Jew, must support Israel. They are rightly incensed at being told what they must believe as Jews by those, who aren’t.

Criticism of the Israel lobby should not stop at the Board and its vile president. It has to go beyond, to organisations like the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, BICOM and others.

Arkush should be called on to resign for his comments. And so should Gideon Falter, and his wretched smear group be broken up for its similar tactics, libels and goals.

The Young Turks Condemn Comments Celebrating Persecution of Palestinians

May 16, 2018

This is a video from the American left-wing news show, The Young Turks, in which main man Cenk Uygur comments on the appalling views of American Conservatives on the Israeli state’s persecution of the Palestinians. One of them remarked on American television about how wonderful and transparent Israeli democracy was. He thought it was the most democratic country in the world. He also praised Israeli walls. These were great too, unless you believed that Palestinians were people.

He was referring to the wall built by the Israelis, to keep the Palestinians the Israelis expelled from their ancestral homes out. The Israelis have been trying to expel all of the Palestinians from Israel and the occupied territories ever since the Nakba at the birth of Israel. They have also refused to readmit Palestinians, who fled the massacres committed by the Israel forces at the time, for purely racist reasons. They have said quite openly that they weren’t going to allow them to return as this would upset the ethnic composition of Israel as a Jewish state.

Uygur then comes to the comment of Ben Shapiro, a very young Republican political commentator, who for some reason they revere as some kind of great intellectual. Shapiro tweeted that Israelis like to build, while Palestinians prefer to bomb and live in sewage. Uygur makes the point that the reason the Palestinians live in squalor is because they don’t control their economy and the Israeli state is forcing these conditions upon them. He also point out that with this, the Republicans are demonising the Palestinians, just as the Nazis demonised the Jews. And it’s done for the same reason: to make their genocide easier.

He also acknowledges that Arabs and Palestinians also demonise Jews and Israelis, and he’s very firmly against that as well. They’re all human beings, and the only proper solution to this is a two-state solution. He also praises the ‘If Not Now’ movement, which demonstrated against the murder of the protesters yesterday. This is made up of young Jews and rabbinical college students.

But there was one person, who was pleased with the murder of the protesters: Anne Coulter. She tweeted that Israeli soldiers had killed 28 protesters (the total number is 59), before asking ‘Can we do that?’

She was referring to Trump’s plans to build a wall to keep the Mexicans out. Uygur argues passionately that if the Israelis get away with shooting the Palestinian protesters caged in Gaza, then it’ll encourage Trump to believe he can shoot Mexicans trying to enter the US. Because just as the Israeli state demonises the Palestinians as terrorists, so the Trump and the Republicans claim that Mexicans are rapists, drug abusers and members of criminal gangs like MS-13.

And if that happens, you can also bet it’ll have a knock-on effect over this said of the pond. We’ll have the islamopobes and anti-immigration lobby over here claiming that we need to have the right to shoot illegal immigrants for the same reason.

Review: Joe Sacco’s ‘Palestine’

May 12, 2018

(London: Jonathan Cape 2001)

This is one of the classics of the graphic novel. Joe Sacco is an American journalist. He spent two months with the Palestinians in late 1991 and early 1992 in Gaza and the West Bank during the time of the first Intifada. He wrote and drew Palestine after his return to the US, basing it on his notes, publishing it as a nine-part comic strip. These were later collected into a single volume to form the graphic novel. The book also has a kind of introduction, ‘Homage to Joe Sacco’, from Edward Said, the author of Orientalism, critic of western imperialism and attitudes to the Arabs, and himself a Palestinian.

This is precisely the type of book the Israel lobby does not want people to read. Not BICOM, not the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, which was set up because Gideon Falter, its founder, was worried about British attitudes becoming more hostile to Israel after the blockade of Gaza, not the Jewish Labour Movement, formerly Paole Zion and the companion party to the Israeli Labor Party, not the various ‘Friends of Israel’ societies in the political parties, Tories and Labour, nor the Jewish Leadership Council and definitely not the Board of Deputies of British Jews. All of them shout ‘anti-Semitism’ at anyone who dares to publish anything critical of Israel, or show the barbarity with which it treats the Palestinians.

The book shows Sacco’s experiences as he goes around Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, talking to both Palestinians and Israelis, meeting them, entering their homes, and listening to their stories. He starts the book in Cairo, the beginning of his journey to Israel, and to which he returns at his departure. During his time there, he visits the Vale of Kidron, the Arab quarter of Old Jerusalem, Hebron, Ramallah, Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza strip, as it then was, Balata, another refugee camp on the West Bank, Nablus, the town of Gaza itself, and finally Tel Aviv.

It’s not an easy read. This is an occupied country during deep unrest, and the threat of violence and arbitrary arrest and detention without trial is every where. There are patrols of soldiers, demonstrations, explosions and stone throwing. And he shows, with quotes, the contemptuous, lofty and hostile attitude the early Zionists and Lord Balfour had for the indigenous population. He quotes Balfour as saying

‘Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long tradition, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desire and prejudices of 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit this ancient land. We do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the inhabitants’.

Ben Gurion thought it would be simple to expel the Palestinians, because he felt they had no real attachment to their homeland. He wrote that the Palestinian ‘is equally at ease whether in Jordan, Lebanon or a variety of other places’. With the approach of war, he made it clear their expulsion was going to be through military force: ‘In each attack a decisive blow should be struck, resulting in the destruction of homes and the expulsion of the population.’ When that was done, ‘Palestinian Arabs have only one role – to flee’. He also quotes Golda Meir, who stated that a Palestinian people, defining itself as a Palestinian people, did not exist, and ‘we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They do not exist’. 400 Palestinian villages were razed in the war marking the birth of Israel. Meir’s lie – that the Palestinians don’t exist as a people – is still repeated by Republican and pro-Israel bloggers. Golda Meir was also concerned about the Palestinian population outstripping that of the Israelis, another issue that is still very alive today.

His hosts are polite, welcoming him into their homes, and plying him with tea. But occasionally there is an outburst from one of them, when he’s asked what the point of him being there, of them talking to him, is. Because other journalists have been there too, and they’ve talked to them, and nothing has happened, nothing has changed. They also talk to him about the other factions, and of the peace process. In a separate text at the beginning of the book, he states that, while the peace process set up the Palestinian authority and gave them a government, it changed nothing for ordinary Palestinians, and the occupation and theft of land by the Israelis still goes on.

He also reveals that the Israelis appropriate 2/3 of the land in the West Bank for their own us, which includes the establishment of Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law. And the governments gives Israelis plenty of incentives to move to them. They’re given a government grant if they do, lower interest rates on loan, the housing itself is cheaper than in Israel, and an income tax rate of 7 per cent. The settlers themselves can be extremely aggressive. Sacco’s hosts tell them about incidents where settlers have come into Palestinian villages, smashing windows and demanding that the owners come out. Of people shot by them, and the trivial sentences given to the settlers guilty of this. They’re given jail sentences of a few months. If they’re convicted in the first place. Palestinians who shoot and kill Israelis are jailed for years. Some lavish homes do exist in Palestine, occupied by Arabs, but most live in very bare houses, often with leaking roofs, which are vulnerable to storms.

His cartoons show what his Palestinian hosts tell him it’s like in prison camps like Ansar III, with crowds of prisoners crammed into small, bare rooms with no heat and poor ventilation. There are also few eating utensils, to the various political factions in the camp – Fateh, Hamas, Popular Front, organise meal times so that everyone gets a turn with the cup and plate to eat and drink. Several of the people he talks to were arrested simply on suspicion. Israeli law allowed them to be held without charge while evidence was compiled, with his captors returning to court over and over again to request a few more days more, until the judge finally listens to their lawyer, has the procedure stopped and the prisoner released. He also shows how the prisoners were tortured through beatings, being forced to stand for hours with bags over their heads, a process permitted under Israel law. A judge ruled that torture could not be used, but what methods were to replace them were kept secret. So many Palestinians have been incarcerated, that a green identity card showing a man has been in jail is a matter of pride. And not to have been to prison correspondingly is a mark of shame.

He talks about how the Israelis have a deliberate policy of not allowing the Palestinians to industrialise, so that they compete with the Israel. The State has also put obstacles in place to prevent Palestinian farmers competing with Israelis. They also deliberately uproot the olive trees many Palestinians grow to support themselves. The Israelis also appropriate most of the water, and dig deeper wells, so that the Palestinians have a much poorer water supply and their own wells are becoming increasingly saline. As a result, unemployment in Gaza was at 40 per cent. And Sacco himself was approached several times by Palestinians, hoping he could do something so that they could leave and go abroad to study or find work.

He describes a school, without electricity, as well as a school for the deaf, which is supported through volunteers and whose staff complain of their lack of training for dealing with people with disabilities. He also hears and illustrates the story of one Palestinian woman, whose son was shot by Israeli soldiers, but was prevented from taking him directly to hospital. Instead she was ordered to go hither and thither, where she was told a helicopter was waiting to take her and the boy. When she gets there, there is no helicopter. She eventually takes him to the hospital herself in a car, by which time it’s too late and the lad dies.

The book also shows the mass of roadblocks and the permit system which Palestinians have to go through to go to Israel. At the same time, Israelis are simply allowed to whiz through in their separate lanes.

Sacco also doesn’t shy away from showing the negative side of Palestine – the anti-Semitism, and particularly infamous murders, like the killing of Klinghoffer aboard the Achille Lauro, and the massacre of the Israeli Olympic team by the terrorist group Black September. This can turn into support for the murder of Israeli civilians. There’s also a chapter on the plight of Palestinian women, This is a society where women are still very much treated as inferiors and subordinates, where honour killings are carried out as the punishment for female adultery. It is also a society where collaborators are murdered, and those, who belong to the wrong faction may also be shot and killed.

The book was written 27 years ago, but nothing really seems to have changed since then. The illegal settlements are still there and expanding. Settlers are still seizing Palestinian homes and property, the apartheid separating Israelis from Palestinians is still in place, unemployment is still high, and Palestinians are still being treated as foreigners, refugees and second-class citizens on their own land.

However, some attitudes are changing. The Israeli liberals Sacco talks to only support the Palestinians up to a point. When pressed, some of them will say that Israel should keep the Occupied Territories, because they seized them in war. Or that they need to keep them for security reasons. But an increasing number of young Jews in America and elsewhere are appalled at the continuing maltreatment of the Palestinians and are becoming increasingly critical and hostile to Israel because of this. And there have also grown up major opposition groups like the human rights organisation B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence in Israel.

The Israeli state and its lobby and supporters in this country and others are increasingly scared. It’s why they’re trying to pass laws to criminalise the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in America, and to outlaw criticism of Israel in this country through tortuous definitions of anti-Semitism that are stretched to include it. It’s why they’re smearing, with the connivance of the right-wing media, the Blairites in the Labour party, and the Conservatives, decent people, who have fought racism and anti-Semitism, as anti-Semites.

Very long, detailed books have been written about Israel’s brutal treatment, dispossession and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. Sacco’s Palestine presenting this as graphic novel, is an example of how comics can also be serious literature, tackling a difficult subject with both narrative and artistic skill and style. I’ve mentioned on this blog before the alternative comics that were also published from the ’60s to the 1980s/1990s on political topics, including the Israeli maltreatment of Palestinians in Pat Mills’ Crisis. Palestine is very much in that tradition, and in 1996 won the American Book Award.

Money Laundering: Will Jeremy Hunt End Up at the Bottom of the Black Sea like Iron Bella?

April 22, 2018

Much mirth was had on Friday night’s edition of Have I Got News For You when host Lee Mack inadvertently accused Jeremy Hunt of money laundering. The current minister in charge of privatising the NHS has bought a whole load of houses in Southampton to the tune of £50 million, but not declared it in the register of members’ interests. This breaks parliamentary rules, as Mike reported on his blog. Mack went a bit further, and frightened the Beeb’s lawyers and producers by inadvertently claiming that Hunt had been accused of money laundering. He hasn’t, as the producers and the lawyers told him through the microphone in his ear and by autocue. He then got frightened over whether it would be the programme or himself that could get sued for libel.

Hislop, however, was perfectly willing to repeat the accusation. He said that the legislation that Hunt had violated had been brought in specifically to deal with money laundering, and so that was what Hunt was doing. ‘Trust me on this. I never lose’. That last must have been said ironically, as Hislop and Private Eye have lost libel cases so often that it was a case for major celebration over a decade ago when he actually won one. Mack hurriedly repeated the statement that Hunt had not been charged with that offence, while Hislop said ‘But that’s what he’s been doing.’ Ah, the fun of watching arguments on panel games, and a host terrified of m’learned friends coming down on him.

But this also raises an interesting point. Amongst their various donors, the Tories have been taking money from Russian oligarchs. These men were very highly placed managers and apparatchiks under the old Soviet system. Hence they were able to buy up their particular industries and state enterprises, often at knockdown prices, when it was all privatised by Yeltsin. And there’s a conflict of interest here. When Putin came to power, he allowed them to retain their ownership on one condition: absolute loyalty to him. It’s been described by Russian dissidents and academics as ‘industrial feudalism’. Alexandra Politovskaya, the murdered Russian democracy activist said that as long as this system continues, there is no freedom, no democracy, just the strong man in the Kremlin.

Exactly true. So although the Tories want some kind of confrontation with Putin, including war, a sizable portion of their rich donors don’t.

But there’s also the possibility of personal danger to Hunt himself. Russia is a very corrupt society, and the Communist era was certainly no exception. The Russian journalist Arkady Vaksberg described just how corrupt Russian officialdom was in his book The Soviet Mafia. Vaksberg was a Jewish Bulgarian, who worked for TASS, the official Soviet news agency. Several times he risked censure and arrest for uncovering massive corruption within the Communist party. And it went all the way to the top, right to Brezhnev himself and his son-in-law. Vaksberg describes talking to exhausted, demoralised Soviet generals, who had spent days trying to arrange emergency transport for food into areas hit by famine. They then found out that all their efforts had been wasted. There was no famine. It all had been a scam by the local party chiefs and apparatchiks to misdirect funds and goods, and enrich themselves.

And money laundering was one of the many tricks the corrupt Communist chiefs were into. In one of the these scams, the embezzled money was laundered through the Soviet hotel chains on the Black Sea coast, run by a powerful Georgian lady nicknamed ‘Iron Bella’. Again, millions of roubles were involved. After this was busted wide open, and those responsible were sacked and led off to the gulags, Iron Bella mysteriously disappeared.

But everybody knew where she went. As they said in the Godfather, she sleeps with the fishes. The joke at the time went, ‘Nobody knows what happened to all those roubles, but everyone knows Iron Bella’s at the bottom of the Black Sea’. Quite.

If Hunt has been doing a bit of money laundering, an offence for which he has not been charged, and it comes from Russian oligarchs, then it might be advisable for him to avoid any coastal holidays for the time being.